5 questions to ask yourself before buying an IoT device

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It can be easy to buy the latest gadget hitting the shelves without much consideration. Some who have purchased Apple AirTags probably haven’t considered their practicality much beyond understanding that this device would somehow help keep track of their items. But consumers are slowly acknowledging the potential safety issues with these new devices: News recently surfaced that Apple had to defend warranties on these products after numerous instances of them being used in harassment.

Besides privacy issues, there are many other potential complications in using IoT devices, especially when setting them up. But on the other hand, these new products offer excellent solutions to many of our daily problems and could significantly improve our lives.

How can we take advantage of the benefits of this new technology while protecting our privacy? By asking the right questions.

1. Will the device work where you need it?

Internet is not the same everywhere. I travel a lot, and on one trip in particular I realized that culture and infrastructure strongly determine the use of technology. In this particular case, I even had trouble getting a decent internet connection. How strange, too, that when I visit other parts of the world, I can easily stay in touch with my friends and family through amazing cell service – yet back home in Santa Monica I sometimes have to trouble getting a signal.

The usage circles of an IoT device should overlap with where it operates. If you want an activity tracker to wear when hiking or biking in the woods, will you even be able to find a signal? If you fall at home, will your Apple Watch be able to reach 911? Before buying an IoT device, you need to think about what you would like to do with the device and make sure you can use it when and where you need it.

2. What are your preferences and levels of patience?

Do you have the time, patience and skills to configure your IoT device to suit your needs? Besides a simple Internet connection, there are countless preferences that need to be selected and adjusted for everything to run smoothly. If you want your personal preferences to be loaded on new devices, unfortunately there is no app for that (yet!). Each IoT device will need to be configured individually to match all of your unique settings.

My wife is someone who has all the skills to fine-tune the settings on a new device, but she doesn’t want to deal with the inconvenience. For her, a viable solution was to delegate this work to available support teams. Tech support teams like Best Buy’s Geek Squad could become your best friend if you’re spending the money. Is it something you are ready to invest in?

3. Will the frustrations outweigh the benefits?

Frustrations are a natural byproduct of technology and IoT devices in particular. Inconvenience will surely arise between setting up connections, setting preferences, and setting up multiple devices. Take the time to weigh the amount of frustration you’re willing to handle with the convenience and quality of life that the IoT can bring.

The type of devices you choose also takes into account this consideration. A simple Bluetooth speaker will be much easier to manage than setting up a new Amazon Fire TV. Having the patience to wait for updated and even more streamlined devices to come out can help alleviate some of the headaches you have to endure.

4. How do you weigh privacy and convenience concerns?

A smart home constantly monitors what you say and improves its algorithms to better meet your needs. Tracked also from the moment you leave your front door, new security systems allow you to check in real time what is happening in your home. To experience all that IoT devices have to offer, we are forced to sacrifice our privacy to some extent.

Would you rather have the freedom to have seamless control of the devices in your home, making everything work with your voice? Or do you want to make sure your privacy is secure? Personally, I am more inclined to favor the freedom offered than the fear of a potential invasion. I can choose to focus on the benefits of such technology, but what about you?

5. Are you ready for IoT integration?

Assess your own IoT environment. How will a new device fit into it? Companies tend to monopolize your experience across devices. So if you buy digital locks for your front door, they will come with a hub to control the device via Bluetooth. If you have an Alexa, it’s more likely to be the hub for those locks.

I have a device for the door to my house called MyQ – which Amazon does not produce – but since updating my house with more IoT I have received messages on the MyQ software asking if I would like to let Amazon’s Ring support the feature. To what extent do you want a particular company – be it Amazon, Google, Microsoft or Apple – to control the operation of IoT devices in your home?

Take your time.

When I first became interested in IoT devices, I didn’t take the time to ask these crucial questions. Being a techie, I jumped in, bought devices, and assumed I could learn more about them through experimentation. But I discovered that there is a big difference between learning the device itself and successfully building an IoT environment.

Purchasing an IoT device can be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. Keep in mind that these devices will likely be with you for the next five to ten years before they become obsolete. Doing research and even talking to the vendors who sell the devices can help you find the right solution. Only you can assess how IoT devices can fit into your life. So be sure to take the time to answer these important questions before you buy.

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